Hi, my name is Sofia, I am fourteen, and I am a UNYQ pioneer.  

I have been diagnosed with scoliosis since I was twelve, but I did not wear a brace until I turned thirteen.  There were so many things I wish I knew before the velcro was first fastened, such as the adjustment period, the day to day struggles, and dealing with personal issues.  However, I also was not aware of how much having a brace would make me a more confident and persevering person. I’m writing this article mostly to help other kids going through the same thing, and hopefully give the kind of advice I never received beforehand.  

People usually ask me, “When did you first notice something was wrong?”  When I was twelve, I was taking one of my regular ballet classes, and my teacher noticed something wrong with my posture.  I was officially diagnosed after visiting an orthopedic doctor and taking an X-ray. The moment I first saw the image, I was shocked.  Though my S-shaped curves were very small, they looked giant in my eyes.

My doctor decided to wait and see how the curves progressed as I grew, so at the time, there was nothing that could be done. Even though scoliosis did not affect my daily life, it took a large emotional toll.  I started seeing a new physical therapist once a week, and my ballet teachers would pester me constantly about my posture, which made me annoyed and sad. The worst part was being unsure whether or not to tell my friends.  Although my friends are extremely kind and caring people, I felt that there was no reason to tell them. If scoliosis was not going to change my daily life, why did I need to talk about it? However, after a while I began to feel guilty that I was keeping such a huge secret.  Despite my inner conflicts, I went on with my life normally until around my thirteenth birthday.

Apparently, my spine got worse.  Because of a growth spurt, my curves progressed over ten degrees, and, now, I needed to wear a back brace.  At first, I was worried. The plastic tube that my doctor showed me looked large, hard, and inflexible. However, I had hope; there were other options out there.  My mom helped me research alternatives to the traditional Boston Brace, and we eventually stumbled upon UNYQ. I loved the brace, because it looked cool (obviously), seemed easier to hide, and had air holes that provided more ventilation.  It was also interesting how the brace was custom made and 3D printed. We contacted the company, and a few months later, I saw the brace for the first time.

The brace looked beautiful, and I was actually looking forward to trying it on.  However, it was much tighter than I imagined and restricted my breathing a little.  The first few hours were very uncomfortable, and I thought that I would never get used to the feeling.  But, with a lot of perseverance, I was able to adjust in a few weeks. Right now, I have settled into a routine with my brace, and I learned a lot during a strenuous trial and error process.  

Sleeping in the brace was one of my first obstacles.  How is it possible to drift off while being surrounded by plastic?  One word: featherbed. After a night of tossing, turning, and removing, my mom bought a featherbed and put it on top of my mattress.  From then on, I slept through the night. The next difficulty I encountered was dealing with shoes. It is nearly impossible to touch your toes, so I found a different solution.  The key is to put on your shoes before you put on the brace. Though it takes some getting used to, it really helps.

Another problem is one I am still dealing with: getting holes on the back of my shirts.  I know that this does not happen to most people with a back brace, but for some reason, it keeps happening to me.  I believe it is a result of a brace screw rubbing against my shirt and my backpack when I’m at school. However, my latest solution has been helping a lot.  If you ever see holes in your clothing, put some hot glue over the screws.

Despite the physical struggles, I have received some great benefits from the brace.  While wearing it, I had to learn how to live a life with an inflexible core. Though it was extremely frustrating, I was able to adapt and I now have more balance stability than ever. Besides helping your body, the brace can also benefit in a fun way too! For example, I now have a built in drum.  Whenever I’m bored, I find myself making music with my brace without even realizing it! I also now have a defense mechanism if I am attacked by a friend with aggressive hugs, which helps me more often than most might think.

My main problem was one of the most daunting: hiding my brace from other people.  Most people at my school do not know about my scoliosis, because I decided not to advertise my brace to everyone.  However, I did reveal my secret to some people. I decided to tell my closest friends, who were very understanding and are still an important part of my brace journey.  Being honest with my friends allowed me to gain the confidence I needed to be comfortable with who I am and willing to share my story with others. For those of you who also have a brace, I have a message for you: Even though it may be hard at times, you need to remember that you can do this!  These years will pass by in a flash, and having a brace is one more thing that makes you special, and of course, unique!